London weather: Network Rail imposing speed restrictions as UK heatwave raises chance of buckling tracks

Catherine Neilan
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Network Rail is already imposing speed restrictions because of the heat (Source: Getty)
Network Rail may be suffering from a corporate meltdown, but it turns out the train group is worried about a different kind of overheating as the mercury rises.
The UK is expected to see a heatwave this week, with temperatures soaring into the mid-to-high 30s, with the Met Office forecasting a peak tomorrow, when it is expected to be hotter than Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Network Rail has warned that temperatures like these could lead to a greater number of buckled rails, which mean the line must be closed as the track cannot be repaired until the temperature of the rails has dropped “causing considerable disruption”.
To avoid buckling, Network Rail adopts measures such as painting rails white so they absorb less heat. But one of the main methods they use in really hot temperatures is reduced speed – meaning potential travel disruption to thousands of commuters.
This is already happening: First Great Western services in the Thames Valley area will be subject to speed restrictions from midday to 8pm today - meaning there will be fewer fast trains.
There will be no fast trains between London Paddington and Bourne End or Henley-on-Thames. Trains from London Paddington will terminate at Twyford for a connection with a branch line train to Henley-on-Thames, which will remain on the branch line. Trains from London Paddington will terminate at Maidenhead for a connection with a branch line train to Bourne End.
“On very hot days when high rail temperatures are widespread, we impose speed restrictions at vulnerable locations; slower trains exert lower forces on the track, reducing the risk of buckling,” Network Rail said.
There is also a greater risk of lineside fires, which the body tries to avoid by increasing its litter clearing, boost its management of trees around train tracks and equip track workers with fire extinguishers.
It's not just the train tracks that could suffer from high temperatures. The Met Office has already declared a level two heat health alert – where direct sun is dangerous for old, young and those with chronic diseases – and it could be raised to level three, where everyone is advised to keep out of the sun.
Government body Public Health England has warned that businesses and local organisations prepare for hot weather by reviewing its Heatwave Plan, which was published earlier this year.

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